Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a rally on Saturday night in Iowa is already drawing criticism from his rivals.
The former president was due to speak over the weekend in Des Moines but abruptly canceled his plans shortly before leaving Mar-a-Lago, citing weather concerns. The county fell under a tornado watch Saturday night as strong storms rattled parts of the country.
But Iowa was spared the brunt of the storms, which instead caused damage in Oklahoma and Kansas. And to make matters worse for the former president, his likely rival from 2024 continued to host events in and around the city that night, even commenting on how nice the weather was.
On Sunday, a Republican commentator on CNN speculated that Trump’s real reason for canceling the rally was fear that DeSantis would dwarf him with a larger crowd.
“Some people say it was because of the weather. Other people say it was because he couldn’t draw a big crowd. I don’t know what the truth is,” said Scott Jennings, a former official in Bush’s second White House.
Trump’s rivals are keen to spot any hint of weakness in the former president’s support base as they move into the 2024 primary with no real indication, at least so far, that he will be removed as the de facto leader of his party. Trump continues to enjoy a large lead in the polls over all of his likely and announced rivals, including DeSantis, who remains the only Republican in the polls in double digits other than the former president.
That voting threshold cleared by the Florida governor has earned him the clear wrath of the former president, who has spent months trying to push Mr. DeSantis into an all-out political fight. He has insisted loudly in numerous interviews and other appearances that DeSantis came to beg for his endorsement in 2018 and would not have been re-elected (or won the first time) without his endorsement.
Those claims are likely exaggerated. While DeSantis won a narrow victory in 2018, he ran for re-election in 2022, while the Florida Republicans had similar success.
Comparatively, on the national stage, candidates who were most aligned with Trump and his false claims about the 2020 election tended to underperform their Republican counterparts in many crucial midterm races.